Charter A Week 58: A Triple Alliance in Provence and Italy

934 and 935 continue to be pains to pick charters for, so once again I’m playing a little fast and loose with the format. In this case, like last week, the dating elements in the document we’re going to look at are discordant: the AD year is 934, but the indiction gives 933. Schiaparelli, who edited the act, plumped for 933; the Regesta Imperii isn’t so sure, and that’s good enough for me to put it here.

So, somewhat unusually, we’re in Italy. We’ve spoken before about the multipolar Europe of the 930s, and this act is an interesting insight into that.

D HL no. 34 (8th March 933/934, Pavia)

In the name of Lord God Eternal.

Hugh and Lothar, by God’s grace kings. 

If we grant worldly benefits on places venerable and dedicated to God, we do not doubt we will gain eternal prizes from the Lord.

Consequently, let the entirety of all the followers of the holy Church of God and ourselves, to wit, present and future, know that we, for love of God Almighty and of the holy virgin Mary and of the blessed apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, and for love of the other apostles, and for the remedy of our souls and those of Our father and mother, to wit, Theobald and Bertha, and our other relatives, concede to the holy and venerable monastery of Cluny, where Odo is at present now seen to be abbot, two curtilages from the right of our property lying in the county of Lyon, of which one is called Savigneux and the other Ambérieux-en-Dombes, in their entirety (besides Leotard the baker and five other servants pertaining there, who now serve us, whom we reserve for our power); that is, with chapels, houses, lands, vineyards, fields, meadows, pastures, woods, salt-pans, feeding grounds, waters and watercourses, hills, valleys, mountains, plains, male and female serfs of both sexes (besides those six servants whom we reserved for our power above), labouring men and women, and with everything they can say or name justly and legally pertaining to these two curtilages in their entirety (these six servants put to one side), so that from the present day, in their entirety (these six servants, as we said, put to one side), they might be in the right and dominion of the same abbey and of the abbot who is there now and of his successors, for the common advantage of the brothers serving God there at the time, rightly, quietly, and without any contradiction. 

If anyone might with reckless daring endeavour to infringe or violate our donation, let them know themselves to be damned by God Almighty like a sacrilege; in secular terms, as well, let them know themselves to be liable for a fine of one hundred pounds of pure gold, half to our treasury and half to the abbot of the aforesaid abbey and his successors and the brothers who are there at the time.

And that this might be more truly believed and diligently observed by all, we strengthened it with our own hands and commanded it be marked below with our signet.

Sign of the most serene kings Hugh and Lothar.

Chancellor Peter witnessed on behalf of Abbot and Archchancellor Gerland.

Given on the 8th ides of March [8th March], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation 934, in the 8th year of the reign of the most pious lord king Hugh and the 3rd of lord king Lothar, in the 6th indiction

Enacted in Pavia.

Happily in God’s name, amen.

By itself, this might not look like very much. It’s a royal grant of property with added extra memorialisation, to Cluny no less – and royal diplomas for Cluny, from across Europe, are ten a penny. However, what’s interesting about it is the way that it takes us into the middle of alliances spanning most of western Europe: Hugh of Arles, for this short period, was the man in the centre of almost everything, and right behind him was Odo of Cluny. Hugh and Odo may have known each other (so thinks Isabelle Rosé) from Odo’s upbringing at the court of William the Pious, and they seem to have remained on good terms. However, this was particularly expressed in the early 930s. Besides this diploma, in 929, Hugh arranged his own betrothal with the important Roman noblewoman Marozia, who in 931 imposed her son as Pope John XI. Shortly afterwards, he granted Odo a papal privilege. He also intervened in 932 to confirm the new archbishop of Rheims, Artald, who (as we will have much cause to hear about in subsequent weeks) had recently been imposed on that church by Ralph of Burgundy.

In 933, too, Ralph of Burgundy was active in northern Provence. In 931, Count Charles Constantine of Vienne had promised his loyalty to Ralph; in 933, he actually handed it over. Hugh of Arles may well have had a hand in this. In 929, he had played an important role in ending the rebellion of Count Heribert II of Vermandois, the jailer of Charles the Simple, who had released his captive from prison and set him up against Ralph. Part of the deal was that Hugh agreed to grant Heribert the ‘province of Vienne’ (whatever that meant) on behalf of Heribert’s son Odo. West of the Rhône, the role of Odo of Cluny in West Frankish politics is something we’ve covered a lot recently; but to summarise, Ralph’s takeover of the duchy of Aquitaine was thoroughly aided along by the fact that he had the support of Odo, along with the networks of alliances surrounding his abbeys.

We have here a three-pointed alliance. Hugh can help both Ralph and Odo on the Italian side, as in the cases of Artald and Odo’s papal privileges (notably, both papal interventions came before the breakdown in relations between Hugh and the Romans later in 932). Odo can help Ralph in Aquitaine. His use for Hugh is a bit more obscure to me, but my guess is that, amongst other things, his connections with the Transjurane court and thus with Hugh’s rival for the kingship of Italy Rudolf II may be the operative factor. Ralph, meanwhile, can help Odo against his monastic rival Guy of Gigny; and he can ensure that the situation in northern Provence remains relatively stable. In fact, I would say that ensuring regional stability in the face of the deaths of both William the Younger and Louis the Blind (at least, once they’ve all helped themselves after the initial instability) is probably the most obvious binding force between these three men.

This diploma hints at that more than it says any of it. It is nonetheless significant that the estates in question are right next to Anse, where Ralph issued a diploma for Cluny in summer 932; and are also in William the Younger’s former county of Lyon. These gifts have presumably, therefore, been selected to implant Odo more firmly in Lyon and to emphasise the ongoing role of Hugh and Ralph together in ensuring a stable division of power in Provence. Much of the diplomatic activity of this period is hidden from us, and so there’s a lot of inference in this picture. Nonetheless, our box of hints builds up to a pretty convincing picture of a multipolar Frankish world in the 930s, all centred on the Trans-Ararian region.

Charter a Week 57: North or South?

Bear with me here. I said last time that the mid-930s was a problematic time to be focussing on whilst running a series which looks at charters, and this week is a case in point. It doesn’t help that my plans for the 933 charter were completely ruined when writing up the commentary for my charter from a few weeks ago. You see, originally my choice for a 933 charter was a no-brainer. However, doing the reading around the charter of Bishop Godeschalk of Puy that I put in the 931 slot, it turns out that it is by no means clear that my 933 choice was actually from 933, and rather more likely that it wasn’t. I had a look at other options, but none of them were very inspiring. So, I thought, I don’t often get into the weeds of technical diplomatic here – why not look at this act’s problematic dating, and explain which this fairly dry discussion matters to our knowledge of the period?

D RR no. 21

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pious, invincible and ever august king of the Franks and Aquitanians and Burgundians.

Since ‘there is no power but of God’, who (as is written) ‘doth establish kings upon their throne’, it thus follows entirely that those on high should humble themselves below His powerful hand and that the ministers of their realm ought to conduct themselves in accordance with His will.

Wherefore let it be known to all carrying out duties to the realm in time both present and future that I, solicitous to restore to wholeness the state of religion, decreed that the abbey of Tulle should be renewed in a Regular way of life, as once it was. It is sited in the district of Limousin, on the river Corrèze, built in honour, that is, of the most blessed lord Martin. In this place, by God’s largess, the ancient reverence is preserved to this day by new miracles.

By the prayers of the noble man Adhemar, who has until this point held that place, and also at the suggestion of Count Ebalus [Manzer], I commended the same place to a certain religious abbot named Aimo to restore a Regular way of life; and I made it subject to the abbey of Saint-Savin. However, because experience proved that this subjection was an obstacle to religion, wishing to take complete care of that same religion, by wiser counsel We decreed that, in accordance with ancient custom, it should be held under the protection – as opposed to the domination – of the king alone.

However, no-one may decide to do this against the laws of the realm. Seeing that the most excellent emperors are read to have changed their decrees whenever the situation made it necessary and – as the apostle adduces – ‘there is made of necessity a change in the law’, We therefore by the authority of this Our precept establish this monastery, with everything which now pertains to it or which might fall to it hereafter, should endure such that they might be subjected to the domination of no-one save only the holy Rule.

Furthermore, after the death of Our most faithful and beloved lord Odo [of Cluny], who succeeded the aforesaid venerable Aimo, and after Adacius, whom the same venerable Odo asked be ordained to supply a replacement for him, let them have permission in accordance with the Rule of St Benedict to elect from amongst themselves whomsoever they, through wiser counsel, choose.

And let neither king nor count nor bishop nor any other person presume to disturb their goods nor give them to anyone; and let no-one at all dare to dominate them. Let them receive after his death the whole part of the abbey which the aforesaid Adhemar, by the abbot’s consent, retained. When he dies, let whomsoever they communally wish have mundeburdum and legal oversight.

In addition, We concede the right of immunity and the reverence which now and previously has been divinely observed in that holy place, such that no-one should undertake to inflict any violence on either it or the goods pertaining to it. As for the rest, let both the abbot and the monks together – as if before the eyes of God – conserve a regular way of life.

But that this Our precept might persevere undiminished, We signed it in the name of the Creator on High with Our signet.

Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Godfrey the priest, on behalf of Bishop Ansegis [of Troyes], witnessed and subscribed.

Enacted at Anatiacus, on the ides of [most copies: September; one copy: December] [13th September/December], in the third indiction, in the 11th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph.

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is the fact that the elements of the diploma’s dating clause don’t add up. The third indiction (a Byzantine system – figuratively and literally – to do with Roman tax collection) ought to be 930; the 11th year of the reign of King Ralph ought to be 933. How do we tell which is which? There are a few methods. First, we might note that scribes tend (although by no means universally) to be more confident about the regnal year than the indiction. This would point us towards 933. Second, though, we might look to contextual elements. Take Abbot Aimo, for instance. Aimo is last attested at Tulle in May 931, and this again pushes us towards 933.

So far, it’s sounding like 933 is a pretty solid choice for a date. But wait! There’s one key element we have to talk about here, and that’s the place at which the act was issued, Anatiacus. The act’s editor, Dufour, plumped for Anizy-le-Château, roughly halfway between Soissons and Laon. However, Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h pointed out that Anizy’s Latin form is always something like Anisiacus – it’s always got that first i and a following s, not an a and a t. He pointed instead towards Ennezat, a centre for assemblies under the Guillelmid dukes and – crucially – a place whose Latin orthography fits Anatiacus notably better. The problem now is that by dint of his itinerary, Ralph cannot have been at Ennezat at any point in 933. However, as we’ve seen, thanks to the reference to Abbot Aimo, 930 is also out. Brunterc’h therefore proposes 931, a time when we know that Ralph was in the Auvergne and one which requires the scribes who wrote the later copies in which this act survives to have simply misplaced a minim, turning ‘the IXth year’ into the ‘XIth year’ (as well, perhaps, as the ‘IVth indiction’ into the ‘III indiction’), something known to have happened elsewhere.

That such changes to the no-longer-surviving original might have been made are indicated by other signs this charter has been tampered with. This is, for reasons we’ll discuss below, an unusual document anyway, which makes our job harder; but the sections in first person singular (‘I’) rather than first person plural (the royal ‘We’) are very suspicious to my mind, and may have been added later. (I doubt, though, that it was much later.) Similarly, the reference to miracles at Tulle strikes me as a later addition – we know from a letter of Odo of Cluny to the brothers at Saint-Martin of Tours that Tulle was experiencing a surge of miracles at this time, but as a former canon of Saint-Martin himself I don’t think any act in which Odo was so heavily involved would have made quite so much of them at Tulle. For these reasons, I think December 931 (as Brunterc’h suggests) is the most plausible date, although it’s far from conclusive.

Why does this matter? It matters because this act is crucial evidence for Ralph’s involvement with the Aquitanian elite, and that involvement looks very different depending on whether this diploma comes from Ennezat in 931 or Anizy in 933. I covered the Ennezat side in my previous installment of Charter A Week, so you can go there for the details; but the short version is that if it’s from there he appears as a regional peacemaker in the wake of the disturbances following the death of the last Guillelmid duke of Aquitaine Acfred. If it’s from Anizy, it’s a different story. In 933, Ralph’s attention was firmly focussed on attacking and defeating the persistent northern rebel Count Heribert II of Vermandois, in pursuit of which goal he besieged Château-Thierry and Ham. In this context, Adhemar and Ebalus Manzer are most likely north to provide Ralph with military support. This would be far from unprecedented – the most clear-cut example comes from the reign of Ralph’s successor Louis IV, where Ebalus’ son William Towhead is unambiguously attested doing just that for the new king – but in that case this diploma would be firm evidence that connections between the king and the Aquitanian magnates were less arms-length than often supposed.

Whether the act is from 931 or 933, though, one important thing remains unchanged. The unusual preamble and titulature Ralph is given here has usually – and in my view correctly – been taken to show the influence of Odo of Cluny on the drafting of the diploma. We’ve noted the importance of Odo to Ralph’s regime at this time in previous posts, but this is quite a dramatic departure for West Frankish diplomatic, and is an interesting view of a road ultimately not taken, where Cluniac  – or, better, Odonian – ideology became a crucial part of West Frankish kingship.

Charter A Week 55: The Squabbling Aquitanians

The reign of King Ralph is not a good time for private charters. I don’t know why this should be – with the usual exception (Cluny), a drop-off in the number of private charters from the 920s and 930s is a kingdom-wide phenomenon. What this means is that we’re dealing this week with an undated charter, albeit one that has a fairly narrow range of possible dates (c. 930-935, and my guess is on the earlier side). We’ve already seen in previous weeks how Ralph of Burgundy established his personal hegemony over large chunks of Guillelmid Aquitaine after the death of Duke Acfred – but what were the members of the old Guillelmid network doing?

Cart. Brioude 28 (5th June, c. 930, Polignac)

To the sacrosanct church of God and the martyr St Julian in the village of Brioude, in which that holy martyr of God rests with other saints, in which place Dalmatius [I of Brioude], by God’s grace viscount, is seen to preside as ruler, in the time of Prior Cunebert and Dean Hector administering its cares.

Therefore we, in Christ’s name Bishop Godeschalk [of Le Puy], Bishop Aurelius, Viscount Dalmatius, Suffician, Gerald, Odilo, Heraclius, Desiderius, Rainer, Bernard, the almsmen of William [the Younger, duke of Aquitaine] who is deceased, through a bequest and through his donation and for the absolution of his soul, that the pious Lord, through the intercession of St Julian and all the saints, might deign to give indulgence to his sins, cede to it in the common victuals of its canons his own goods which fell to him as an inheritance from his parents.

These goods are sited in the fatherland of the Auvergne, in the county of Brioude, in the vicariate of Usson, in the estate which is called Pineta. In that estate we cede to God and St Julian two double manses with manses and fields and meadows and woods, cultivated and uncultivated, sought and whatever is to be sought, with two parts; and we cede the whole tithe to God and St Julian to be had and sold, donated or exchanged in common amongst the brothers, such that from this day forth you might have permission to do whatever you wish by your judgement to do with it, without any contradiction.

If any person, though, either my heir wishing to change our mind, or any other person, should exert themselves to disturb the canons of Saint-Julien, in the first place let them incur God’s wrath, and share a place in the inferno with Dathan and Abiron and with Judas the betrayer, who betrayed the Lord, unless they come to their senses and come to make amends, and in addition let them be compelled to pay one pound of pure gold, and let what they seek find no purchase.

This affirmation was made on the third nones of June [5th June], at the castle which is called Polignac, in the reign of Ralph, king of the Franks and the Aquitanians.

Let this charter, written at that time, endure firm for all time, with these witnesses: Bishop Godeschalk, Aurelius, Dalmatius, Suffician, Gerald, Odilo, Heraclius, Desiderius, Rainer, Bernard; all these almsmen of William asked this charter be made, with Antoard hearing and Bernard Antrive.


The impressive-looking fortress of Polignac as it exists today (source)

The first thing to note here is that I don’t know who Bishop Aurelius is. He’s not the bishop of Clermont or the archbishop of Bourges; if I had to guess, I’d say either Nevers or Mende, but probably Mende. ‘Aurelius’ is a name which rings more of the Velay than the Nivernais. It would also fit with the general southern tinge of the assembled people. You wouldn’t necessarily pick this up from William the Pious’ appearances on this blog, but compared generally to the Guillelmid following twenty-odd years earlier, this is very focussed on the Auvergne and its environs – no Berrichons, probably no one from Nevers, nor the Mâconnais. It’s also delivered in a much more southerly location than the Guillelmid dukes themselves can be seen. Polignac is a fortification immediately outside Le Puy. This makes sense in terms of the fact that it’s the bishop of Le Puy issuing the charter, but that fact itself is quite important – why not Bishop Arnald of Clermont, given the importance of Auvergne to William the Pious and his successors?

Intriguingly, after receiving the submission of the Aquitanians in 930, Ralph went to meet them in winter 931 because they were discordantes – squabbling. We have (if one follows Jean-Pierre Brunterc’h’s argument) a diploma issued at Ennezat at this time, whose intercessors are Ebalus Manzer and Viscount Adhemar of Echelles. That’s a pretty wide range of recipients in an Aquitanian context, and it makes one wonder what they were squabbling over. In fact, it was probably precisely the question of where power should reside in the newly overturned region. The men not at the table in late 930 were Counts Ermengaud of Rouergue and Raymond Pons of Toulouse. Ralph’s meeting at Ennezat was likely an intercession to resolve these disputes.

In that light, this donation by this group, five years or so after the death of William the Younger, is likely to be preliminary to the Ennezat meeting. We may be looking at an attempt by a network of allies to remember their roots, reaffirm the reputation of their old lord, and determine where they stand in the new, William-less world. As we’ve seen, this network would eventually end up loosely attached to the power-base of Raymond Pons, but it preserved enough continuity to reactivate as a regional power in its own right under Bishop Stephen of Clermont in the 940s. Acts like this are likely to be an important way this continuity was maintained.

Charter A Week 30: From Law to Liturgy at Saint-Martin, Sort Of

Man, this cross-branding thing is really getting out of hand. Once again, we’re looking at dispute settlement charters from Saint-Martin of Tours. This time, though, we’re further afield than usual – and if you’re expecting a trial record then, well, prepare for disappointment:

Brunterc’h, ‘Succession d’Acfred’, appendix (3rd May 930, Bourges)

As it has been from the very beginnings of the holy mother Church, from its birth through time up to the end of the age, such people have always joined together in the bosom of its organisation who, having been faithfully reared at its breasts, in turn repay it like a mother, increasing it and lifting it up; and, burning with the love of brotherly affection, do not cease to bear Christ in their bodies through glorifying him and to glorify Christ through bearing him [see 1 Cor. 6:20], fulfilling that which the Truth itself said: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself’ [Matt. 22:37-39].

By contrast, it is undoubted that there are some held in it who envy the advantages of common life, being separated from it by their own iniquity, and who, to increase their own greed, exert themselves to take away from simper people the offerings of goods or the resources from which Christ should be recreated in his poor to through worldly cunning to make them their own as much as they can. Indeed, as the evil of this negligence becomes more general, it becomes more distressing and graver in members of Christ and the Church. For this reason, indeed, the more widespread the estates upon which any place consecrated to God is founded in these times, the graver the weight of the ruin by which it is typically ground down – the higher the status, the heavier the disaster.

Therefore, when the flock of Saint-Martin had been communally beaten and plagued by these calamities and by many others, partly from the savagery of the Northmen, partly, in fact, from the greed of depraved people who popped up within and without, ceaselessly and without respite, it was finally compelled to take the misfortune which it had endured, along with the authority of royal precepts and as well apostolic privileges, to the notice of the most reverend abbot lord Hugh [the Great]; and to zealously intimate to him that the common goods from which they should be fed and clothed had been greedily taken from them by certain parties, and – to leave other things out in order to give a more succinct account of the present matter – to devotedly beseech that Monnaie with all its appendages and in its entirety (and if there was anything else which had once been delegated by the canons for the service of the granary) be restored to them by the abbot.

Indeed, our elders – that is, the fathers who came before – pursuing in every way the pursuit of piety and burning with the zeal of lovingkindness, assigned certain renders from the aforesaid estate to the common uses of the brothers’ mill. However, against this were some, puffed up with the arrogance of pride and defiled by the itchy rash of depraved greed (which is the root of all evil), who sought the ministry of the granary not freely from the brothers (as was the custom) but through the abbot’s command having given him gifts, desiring to deprive the communion of the brothers of that whole power, and this they did. <At that time, indeed, the brothers needed the granary and the mill, because they freely supplied what had been stored in it; not, they cannot satisfy that need, because they do not supply what is placed there, and neither was anyone able to receive a prebend for a year and two months.>

At length, the same venerable abbot was repeatedly accused by this most worthy petition of the aforesaid flock, and assented to it in this matter to the extent that he knew it to be most eager in faith to Martin, the lord and outstanding confessor of Christ, and to his service. Therefore, a notice was made on this matter, how a little later an embassy of no small dignity from the congregation of the excellent confessor of Christ the blessed Martin –  that is, Berner the levite and dean, Farmand too, also a levite and the keymaster; and Archenald the priest and head of the school; as well as Prior Nefingus [later bishop of Angers] and Leotrand the deacon, on behalf of all the other canons – came to the city of Bourges, into the presence of the sweetest lord and oft-named abbot Hugh, one more renewing and intimating to his most pious familiarity the necessity of themselves of their confreres, so dolefully lamentable and lamentable doleful, and their complaint, which so many times before had not been granted, and asking with a submissive prayer that he in his piety might for love of God and St Martin rescue them who laboured under this grave and long-lasting loss, and deign to kindly grant them a small amount of worldly goods in this world, that he might be repaid by many goods in eternity by the Lord.

Mercifully assenting to their legitimate petitions, he promised not only to amend and restore the neglected and lost good about which they had come, but also to provide many benefits for them in future. Soon, having summoned not only the bishops who were there, but also all of his followers of both orders, he explained this case to them, and the very necessary petition of the brothers, seeking from them what and what sort of counsel they wanted to give him on this matter. At this, they unanimously gave him the counsel, so useful and so beneficial, that he should never permit the canons of Saint-Martin to ever sustain any kind of harmful loss from their property and from the things which pertained particularly to them, which they were incontestably known to possess (as was said before) through royal precepts and apostolic privileges. They added that no-one at all who agreed to infringe and violate the aforesaid authorities of Saint-Martin could obtain the Kingdom of God.

Giving to their salubrious and agreeable suggestion consent given as freely as he believed that it was beneficial for him before God and Man, he restored to them, for love of God and St Martin as well as for the remedy of the soul of his father lord Robert [of Neustria], the late most pious king, and his mother, and for the remedy of his uncle lord Odo, also a glorious king, and all of his relatives and friends, the aforesaid Monnaie, with all its adjacencies and in its entirety, that which was said to pertain to the granary and that which was usurped by the greed of certain men, through the consent (as was said) of the pontiffs present there and of his followers, to wit, to sustain them in this life, as was contained in the precept of the most glorious king lord Charles and in the privileges of the apostles, such that from this day forth they might hold and possess the said estate of Monnaie for their stipend without any contradiction or opposition from any abbot of the same place of Saint-Martin, whoever it might be, as with their other goods.

But that the authority of this notice might be able to endure firm and inviolable for all time, now and in the time which remains, and obtain more certain firmness in God’s name from his successors as abbot of Saint-Martin, lord Hugh, the oft-named abbot, corroborated it with his own hands under the sign of the holy Cross, and asked both the bishops who were present to subscribe it and also his followers, certain venerable men, to confirm it.

✝ Sign of the holy cross solemnly written by lord Hugh, abbot of Saint-Martin.

☧ Robert, archbishop of Tours, subscribed.

☧ Gerontius, archbishop of Bourges, was present and subscribed.

☧ Turpio, bishop of Limoges, confirmed.

☧ Walter, bishop of Paris, subscribed.

☧ Anselm, bishop of Orléans, subscribed.

Sign of Viscount Fulk [the Red]. Sign of Viscount Theobald [the Elder]. Sign of Geoffrey, an indominical vassal. Sign of Erwig, advocate of Saint-Martin. Sign of Count Burchard [probably of Vendôme]. Sign of Count Hugh [I of Maine], son of Roger. Sign of Ebbo [of Déols?]. Sign of Hildebert. Sign of Roger. Sign of Gimo. Sign of Viscount Geoffrey [of Bourges]. Sign of Sulpicius. Sign of Emeno.

The renewed firmness of this notice was given in the year of the Lord 930, in the month of May, on the fifth nones [i.e. May 3rd], outside and near the city of Bourges, in the sixth year of the reign of the lord and glorious king Ralph [of Burgundy].

Leotrand, a certain unworthy levite by office, wrote and subscribed on behalf of Archenald the schoolmaster.

[Experimenting with new formatting for crosses and chrismons on witness lists – hopefully this works!]

So this is not what we’re expecting, huh. In my article I said:

The language here is not that of the dry and formal Carolingian dispute-settlement record. Instead, we are faced with a sermonizing, highly morally coloured document… writing the case in to the entire arc of Christian history in a fallen world.

I don’t think this is a change in the courts (older-style documents can be found throughout this period) as much as a change in discourse. Compared to the ninth century, it was a lot clearer who had to deliver justice by the 930s: the viscounts, the advocates, and so on. However, through the inevitable process of competition between local elites, these same people were also some of the most likely to challenge Saint-Martin’s interests. Reform of the system wouldn’t work, because the system was already reformed – so there was a shift instead to a reform of the people involved, through exhortations to virtue in informal settings such as we see in this charter. (You can read the article for the full argument, but this is a decent summary of the relevant section.) The end result is the charged semi­­-clamor of this charter, which looks so distinct from earlier documents even though the same processes were at work behind the scenes. It’s notable that this is the last evidence for advocates at Saint-Martin – within an ideological framework such as this charter, there wasn’t really any room for them and so their role faded out.

Of course, there’s a smaller picture here too. Note that this charter concerns an estate at Monnaie. This had, at the turn of the tenth century, been held by the advocates of Saint-Martin, Adalmar and Erwig. Their possession of it does not seem to have been popular, and by 914 the granary-master Guy had been able to reclaim it from Erwig. One wonders if the unnamed malefactors of the 930 included Erwig? It might well explain why this is the last charter any advocate of Saint-Martin appears in, if Hugh the Great’s judgement against him led to a loss of face or office.

Leaving behind the internal history of Saint-Martin, why are all these people at Bourges? They’re in the entourage of Hugh the Great, and Hugh is in the entourage of Ralph of Burgundy.  We saw in previous years that Ralph was able to put Acfred of Aquitaine out of the picture and set up networks of his own allies in the old Guillelmid dominions. In 930, he had a further big success. It helped that Charles the Simple had died in 929, removing one of the main barriers to Ralph’s legitimacy; but the biggest help was that Ralph won a big victory over the Northmen in the Limousin. In the aftermath of this, the biggest names of central Aquitaine submitted – and Hugh and his men were there for it.

It is, in this respect, interesting that this charter refers to Robert of Neustria both as a king and as a good one. We’re not covering it in Charter A Week, but in Easter 931, Ralph came to Tours, where he and Hugh both issued acts emphasising Robert’s positive memory. In the north-east, Hugh was Ralph’s main ally against their mutual brother-in-law Heribert of Vermandois. It looks rather like part of his reward for this, and for his help in Aquitaine, was a public statement that Robert of Neustria’s memory actually was glorious, thank you very much; and this charter might well be preparing the groundwork for that.

Charter a Week 53: The High Point of Bosonid Europe

Big times in the Middle Kingdom! (And I know I use ‘Middle Kingdom’ as a synonym for Lotharingia, which was the area I meant last post, but this time I mean the whole thing.) As we’ve had cause to mention before multiple times, Louis the Blind, ruler of Provence, died in June 928 and then everything went to hell in a handbasket. The twists and turns of the aftermath of Louis’ death have been covered on this blog before, but what matters for our purposes today is that there were four branches of the same extended family all competing for parts of Provence, and all of them ended up with bits of it: Ralph of Burgundy got most of the north, his maternal cousin Rudolf II of Transjurane Burgundy got most of the mountainous eastern bit, his paternal cousin Charles Constantine of Vienne got to be the biggest non-royal cheese in Louis the Blind’s capital, and their more distant relative (by blood, anyway; he was Rudolf II’s stepfather) Hugh of Arles got to be the most important guy in the south even if not the ‘actual’ king. Outright warfare was avoided, but there were tension – until this charter. 

CC 1.379/Romainmôtier 3 (14th June 929, Boyer)

It is clear to all sensibly considering it (that God’s disposition has looked out for certain rich persons such that if they use will those things which are fleetingly possessed they can earn prizes which endure forever. Divine speech, indeed, shows this to be possible, and urges it in every way, saying ‘the riches of a man are redemption of the soul for him’ [Proverbs 13:8]. I, Countess Adelaide, solicitously thinking of this, and desiring whilst it is permitted to provide for my own salvation, thought it certain – indeed, very necessary – that I should impart some small part of the things which have been bestowed on me in this world for the benefit of my soul – I, indeed, who am seen to have become so prominent in these matters – so that I could not possibly be found guilty at the last of having expended it all on the care of the flesh, but rather so that, when final destiny takes everyone, I might rejoice to have reserved something for myself. This purpose truly seems to be unachievable in any more fitting way or form than to make for myself, in accordance with the Lord’s command, friends of His poor; and that an action of this sort might be done not at any given point in time, but continuously, I should sustain from my own resources a group gathered in the monastic profession. Accordingly, it is in this faith, in this hope, that, although I, Adelaide, am unable to scorn all things, I might nonetheless receive the reward of the just as long as I take care of those who do scorn the World, whom I believe to be just.)

Therefore let it be known to all those living in the unity of faith and awaiting the mercy of Christ that [I, Adelaide, by God’s gift countess] transfer goods of my right, which fell to me through a precept of the lord king Rudolf [I of Transjurane Burgundy], that is, my sweetest and most beloved brother, specifically the monastery which is called Romainmôtier, which is sited in the district of Vaud, with the whole abbacy and with all the goods and adjacencies pertaining to the abbey, which were previously set in order there by the holy fathers. This aforesaid monastery of Romainmôtier was once built in honour of the prince of the apostles, to wit, Peter and Paul, under the monastic profession; but is now completely empty of any who live there. For love of our lord Jesus Christ and the same apostles, I, the said Adelaide, transfer it from my right and domination into the dominion and oversight of the monks in every way, that is, of the venerable and most reverend abbot Odo [of Cluny], and all of the brothers and monks of the crowd dwelling in the abbey of Cluny under his rule. This is done on the condition that the monks, as far as they can, should endeavour to reform this monastery, with Christ propitious, through the intercession of the apostles, into its prior state. Let the aforesaid abbot, then, as long as he lives, and the monks, possess the same monastery in such a way that although it might be delegated to the apostolic see just as Cluny is, they should nevertheless always act and be disposed as one congregation under one abbot in such a way that when he dies it should not be permitted to one group or the other to place an abbot over themselves without joint consent; nor might they presume (God forbid!) to substitute for him anyone except him whom the other group has, because it would be very unjust if those who happen to grow up like sons in the monastery of Romainmôtier should be at any time divided from the society of Cluny, who raised them up, like fathers, once more. Of course, in ordaining an abbot the constitution of St Benedict should always be prominent to the extent that if a smaller part of either one congregation or the other should, with wiser counsel, wish to elect a better person, the others should give them their consent in accordance with the Rule. Concerning the matter of brothers whom it is useful to send there from here, or here from there; and also concerning the transference of subsidies, which might perchance be more abundant in one place than in the other, from one placed to the other, let this be in the abbot’s power. And that a more brotherly society might endure between them, let them communally hold ordinations of divine service or almsgiving or any good works, such that what is done at Cluny for William [the Pious] of good memory, and (without doubt) others, whether living or dead, at Cluny should benefit Us and Ours; and in like manner they should share in that which has been done at the monastery of Romainmôtier for Us in accordance with God’s will.

Therefore, I make this donation in the first place for love of God and of the holy apostles; then for the soul of my sweetest brother the lord king Rudolf, that is, the bestower of these goods; then for the rest of my lord of pious memory Prince Richard [the Justiciar], and for Queen Willa [wife of Rudolf I]; then for myself and my son the lord king Ralph [of Burgundy]; and also King Rudolf [II of Transjurane Burgundy], my nephew; and for my other sons Hugh [the Black], Boso [of Vitry] and my nephew Louis [son of Rudolf I, count of Thurgau], and furthermore for our other kinsmen, and for those who are attached to our service; also for my father and mother, and lord Hugh, the distinguished abbot [Hugh the Abbot], and for our other relatives of both sexes; finally, for those who offer help and defence to the monks dwelling there, for the state of all of religion too, and for all Catholics whether living or dead.

Let the monks dwelling therein conserve the way of life which they now transfer from Cluny to shape those yet to come such that they in no way diminish this same way, in food and clothing, in abstinence, in psalmody, in silence, in hospitality, in mutual love and submissiveness, and in good obedience.

It is also pleasing to insert into this testament that from this day the same monks congregated there should be subject to the yoke neither of Us, nor Our relatives, nor the pride of royal highness, nor of any terrestrial power; nor should any worldly prince, nor any count, nor any bishop, nor the pontiff of the aforesaid see of the town of Rome (I beseech and call as my witness, through God and in God, all of His saints and the day of the Tremendous Judgement) invade the goods of these servants of God, nor steal, nor diminish, nor exchange, nor give to anyone in benefice, nor establish any prelate above them against their will. And that such an abomination might be more tightly forbidden to all temerarious and wicked persons, to drive home the same point, I add [and] implore you, O holy apostles and glorious princes of the Earth Peter and Paul, and you, O pontiff of pontiffs of the apostolic see, that through the canonical and apostolic authority which you have accepted from God, you should estrange from the fellowship of God’s holy Church and eternal life robbers and invaders and thieves of these goods, which with a joyful mind and willing heart I donate to the aforesaid servants of God; and you should be protectors and defenders of the said place of Romainmôtier and the servants of God dwelling and staying therein, and of all of these resources, for the alms and clemency and mercy of Our most pious redeemer.

If, perchance, anyone (God forbid! And which, through the mercy of God and the patronage of the apostles I do not think will come to pass), whether from my kinsmen or an outsider or of any condition or power should with any craftiness try to inflict any injury against this testament, which I have sanctioned be made for love of God Almighty and out of veneration for the princes of the apostles Peter and Paul, in the first place let them incur the wrath of God Almighty, and let God take their part from the land of the living, and delete their name from the Book of Life, and let their part be with those who said unto the Lord ‘Depart from us’ [Job 22:17], and incur everlasting damnation with Dathan and Abiron, whom the Earth swallowed into its open mouth, and took living into the inferno, and be held thrust into eternal tortures as a companion of Judas, betrayer of the Lord; and – that they should not seem unpunished to human eyes in the present world – let them endure the torments of their future damnation on their own body, sharing the fate of a double plunderer with Heliodorius and Antiochus, of whom one was battered with terrible scourges and barely escaped half alive; and the other, struck by Heaven’s will, perished in a most wretched fashion with their limbs putrescent and bubbling with worms; and be a fellow of the other sacrileges who presumed to defile the treasury of the house of the Lord; and unless they come to their senses let them have the keymaster of the whole monarchy of churches, and Saint Paul along with him, as an obstructor and contradictor of their approach to the amen-worthy paradise – whom, if they had wished, they could have had as most pious intercessors on their behalf. In accordance with worldly law, let those who inflict a calumny be compelled by judicial power to pay 100 pounds of gold, and let their conflict be frustrated and obtain no effect whatsoever; but let the firmness of this testament be buttressed with all authority and endure every inviolate and undisturbed, relying on this guarantee.

S. Countess Adelaide, king’s mother and abbess, authorising this testament and commanding it be made. S. Hildegang, an unworthy priest. S. Odalric. S. Judith, daughter of King Rudolf. S. Alberada. S. Guy, Henry. S. Hugh [the Black], famous count and brother of the august King Ralph. S. Geoffrey. S. Ralph, son of Emperor Louis. S. Stephen, Christian, Gunfred, Humbert, Boso, Bavo, Leofred, Blitgar, Ralph.

Given on the 14th June.

I, Hildebrand the priest, on behalf of the chancellor, wrote and subscribed this, in the 5th year of the reign of the most glorious King Ralph, in the 2nd indiction.

Enacted publicly in the estate of Boyer.


The abbey of Romainmôtier as it looks today (source)

A quick note on the technical diplomatic of this document – it survives in both the Romainmôtier and Cluny cartularies in slightly different forms. I have put (stuff from only Romainmôtier in brackets) and {stuff from only Cluny in hooked brackets}. Normally this merging of documents would cause a bit more methodological hand-wringing; but in this case the Cluny version is clearly just an abbreviated version of the Romainmôtier one. The only major difference, other than the Cluny charter omitting the preamble, is at one key point in the witness list. I have followed the Romainmôtier version in rendering Hugh the Black as ‘famous count and brother of the august King Ralph’. The Cluny version, though, has ‘S. Hugh, famous count and brother. S. the august King Rodulfus’. Read literally, this implies the presence of Rudolf II (probably him rather than Ralph); but it leaves the word ‘brother’ hanging awkwardly so I think it’s just a scribal error somewhere.

The underlined bits are direct quotations of Cluny’s foundation charter. (Honestly, between Adelaide, Ebbo of Déols, and others, I must have translated Cluny’s foundation charter around five times now.) It’s an interesting decision. We saw in previous weeks that this is within a few years of Ralph of Burgundy and Odo of Cluny conspiring to take Cluny, and the Mâconnais, out of the hands of Acfred of Aquitaine. Referring directly back to William the Pious’ charter is a direct way of establishing continuity with the new set of masters. It also speaks to Adelaide’s spiritual goals: Romainmôtier was to become, quite simply, Little Cluny in the Jura. Of course, the point of that is to tap into the spiritual benefits of William’s foundation (and vice-versa), so it’s not distinct from political goals… And, of course, William was also part of this extended family through marriage – his wife Ingelberga was the sister of Louis the Blind.

This charter is evidence for extended family diplomacy, such that I have previously pointed to it as the high point of ‘Bosonid Europe’ (my term for the multipolar Frankish world between c. 900 and c. 950). It’s clearly Adelaide who’s important here, working as a ‘peace-weaver’ between all these different groups. Even the location bears this out: Boyer, as we have in fact seen on a previous instalment, was one of Adelaide’s estates, granted by her to the cathedral of Chalon a few years previously. The witness list reveals a kind of summit meeting. I’d like to say ‘with Adelaide and Hugh the Black on one side and Judith on the other’ but given the number of ties of kinship and office-holding the two sides are actually very mixed-up. Hugh was a count in Rudolf’s kingdom as well as Ralph’s; Adelaide was – as this charter is itself evidence for – a major landholder in Transjurane Burgundy. Given the relatively low stakes of the division of Provence, these were useful people to negotiate a settlement, and indeed we do not see Rudolf II trying to make any push towards Vienne after this. The nominal goal of the charter, the grant of Romainmôtier to Cluny, fits the political objectives perfectly: creating a bond of brothership between a West Frankish and a Transjuranian abbey as symbolic of inter-regnal co-operation; allowing all the different members of the family to be seen to consent on a worthy public act; and indirectly further legitimating the takeover of Aquitaine. It’s the good old Trans-Ararian Fluidity Zone at work again!

Charter A Week 51/1 – Dismembering Aquitaine

One disadvantage of the ‘Charter A Week’ format is that charters which are important but not prima facie interesting don’t usually make the cut. Last week is a case in point: there are  pair of related documents in the name of one Gerbald for the abbey of Cluny, which are by themselves not that interesting, but which reveal William the Younger, duke of Aquitaine, gathering his men – and Archbishop Anskeric of Lyon – about him as part of a rebellion he was launching against Ralph of Burgundy. One thing we didn’t cover when we looked at his first diploma is that the Aquitanians refused to play ball with Ralph for a while – that diploma was issued when he made a very carefully stage-managed visit to the Loire to receive William’s homage.

Part of the problem was that Ralph had been fighting William for years well before he became king. We know from various sources that Ralph and Robert of Neustria won and lost possession of Bourges several times in the years around 920. When Ralph became king, as I just said, this hostility carried over, with an extra dollop of ‘he’s really a usurper’ on top Thus, even after William submitted in 924, things were not well and warfare had broken out again by 926. Ralph led an army against Nevers, which was being held by William’s brother Acfred, and was intent on pressing further into Aquitaine until he had to turn and deal with rumours of an Hungarian invasion. The next year, though, William the Younger died.

His was not the only big-name death that year. Abbot Berno of Gigny, the first abbot of Cluny (amongst many other places) also died in 927. His will divided his abbeys between his nephew Guy and a rising star of the monastic world named Odo. Guy objected to the will and started muscling in on Odo’s position. Thanks to Odo’s papal connections, he was able to get a warning against Guy, but the pope’s response also put a burden of protection on King Ralph, pushing Odo and Ralph together.


An eleventh-century image of Odo of Cluny. You know, for some reason I’d always imagined him clean-shaven. (source)

Thus the following:

D RR no. 12 (9th September 927, Briare)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.

Ralph, by God’s grace pacific, august and invincible king.

Because it is certain that “God is mighty but despith not any” [Job 36:5], and indeed “without Him there is no power” [Romans 13:1], thus it is also clear that He will examine the works of the mighty, and because of this We should take great care that, since by His dispensation We are able to either help or hurt, We should subject Our potential completely to His will in order that it might do what will increase His holy Church’s honour.

Wherefore, let it be known to everyone, both kings and persons of other dignities, that is, either present or future, that William [the Pious], that great and magnificent man of his time,built through the hand of Berno [of Gigny], a certain reverend abbot, a certain monastery named Cluny in honour of the leading men of Heaven, to wit, Peter and Paul, and made this same place free from all worldly dominion under a great and terrible abjuration, and subjugated it to the Apostolic See to be protected (and not to be dominated).

We, rejoicing in his work and favouring what he established, establish through this precept of Our authority that the place – in accordance with what he decreed through a testament – should be completely free and absolved from disturbance and domination both from kings and from all princes, or kinsmen of the same William, and indeed of all men; that is should remain in the monastic order and be administered in accordance with the tenor of the testament which he made thereof; that the inhabitants dwelling there under the order of the Rule might elect for themselves from amongst themselves an abbot in accordance with the rule of St Benedict after Odo, whom Abbot Berno left for them; that they should possess their common goods, either those which they have now or those which will be acquired in future, to wit, whether they be from Our liberality or from the largess of anyone else, without domination or contradiction from anyone; that they should pay no toll on market days; that no-one should distrain their men, free or servile, against their will; that they should have their indominical tithes for the hospice; that they should hold the allod which Gerbald gave to the aforesaid monastery, and they should similarly claim Blanot with its appendages in perpetual right; that no-one should accept any produce-fee from woods where they have a part and from assarts except them; that they should also possess the curtilage which is called La Frette (which the aforesaid Berno, taking from Gigny, freely turned over to Cluny – for it was through him, actually, that each place was founded) on the conditions which he established, with the allod of the late Samson, and the bondsmen and manse which were Larvin’s, with perennial dominion.

Naturally, in accordance with the earnest entreaty which the aforesaid William prayed for, We too, in Christ’s name, command and appeal to God that it should never be subjected to any mortal through any kind of agreement, but that they should be permitted to live in accordance with the tradition which they are seen to hold in Our days. If they turn away from it, then by God’s judgement let them be preserved for correction of their rule, and let no donation made to God and the saints ever be taken back.

But that this constitution of Our precept might perpetually endure unbroken, We undersign it with Our seal and We command Our leading men to undersign it.

Sign of King Ralph.

Ragenard witnessed on behalf of Bishop Abbo [of Soissons].

Enacted at the estate of Briare, in the twelfth indiction, on the fifth ides of September [9th September], in the year of the Lord’s Incarnation nine hundred and twenty seven, also in the fifth year of the reign of King Ralph.

This diploma is, first and foremost, targeted at Acfred. As Odo’s ally, Ralph had plausible deniability when it came to not exercising dominion over Cluny; Acfred did not, and this act makes a point of noting that as William’s kinsman he has no place at the abbey. Such a gesture is perforce more effective when it’s being issued by a king at the head of an army. At this point, Ralph was returning north from the Mâconnais proper, on his way to Berry where he would receive the submission of William the Pious’ old – if inconsistent – ally Ebbo of Déols. In one fell swoop, he had managed to detach both Berry and the Mâconnais from the Guillelmid family – a hefty chunk of land, and in the case of Mâcon a significant one, given how tightly embedded William the Pious had been there.

Of course, what you may well be thinking – especially given how many royal diplomas we’ve seen on this blog – is ‘what on Earth is happening with the diplomatic here?’ This is the first of a little series of diplomas written in a recognisably ‘Cluniac’ style. We’ve seen elsewhere that the question of Cluniac influence on kingship would become very vexed in the early eleventh century, but there is a case to be made that it was really the years around 930 when Cluny, or at least Abbot Odo (which is not quite the same thing), had the most influence on West Frankish kingship. The preamble to this diploma sets out a coherent, if brief, political theory which is both evidence for Odo’s attitudes to kingship and an explanation of his politics. A king needed to be the humblest of all, because he had the most potential to do either harm or good. Ralph, willing as king to prostrate himself before God (or, at least, to safeguard Odo’s interests, which was more-or-less the same thing), had legitimacy Acfred did not.

So what did Acfred think of this? For the first time in a while, this Charter a Week comes in two parts; and as further evidence of the increasing inapplicability of the name, we’ll see the second part next week.

Charter a Week 48 – More Royal Justifications

Last time on Charter A Week, we left the bloody corpse of Robert of Neustria on the battlefield at Soissons. As we heard last week, it’s not clear who won the battle, but it certainly changed the political situation. All of a sudden, Count Heribert II of Vermandois was in the driving seat. Heribert had been on both sides of the civil war at various times, and he looked to his brother-in-law Ralph of Burgundy, a man untainted by the battle of Soissons and who hadn’t fully taken sides either.

Charles, though, didn’t help his case. After Soissons, he redoubled his efforts to try and win this ‘third force’ back – men like Heribert and Bishop Abbo of Soissons, whom he had cultivated in the years around 920 but who had abandoned him in 922. However, he also sent messengers to the Northmen of the Seine and Loire, who went on a rampage. This lost Charles much of his support, and so Ralph began his reign with a remarkably plausible claim to be a unity candidate. Like Robert, his first surviving diploma also gives a sense of his claims to be king:

DD RR no. 3 (6th April 924, Chalon-sur-Saône)

In the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity.
Ralph, by grace and mercy of the same God Almighty king.

We know and believe and confess that royal power has been bestowed upon Our unworthy self by the supernal oversight of the Ruler of Ages and the Governor of All Time. For this reason We rejoice, thinking of His most bountiful piety, so that We might direct the sceptre of the realm committed to Us at His will, and with His aid protect His Church, for which He shed His own blood, believing that We cannot offer to Him anything more pleasing than this offering, which might be more salutary for Us in this life and more glorious in gaining eternal repayment.

Wherefore let the skill of all the followers of the holy Church of God and Us both present and future know that one of Our abbots, named Aimo, from the monastery of Saint-Martin, which is sited in the suburbs of the city of Autun, acceding to the magnificence of Our Sublimity, made it known to Us that he had precepts issued by kings and emperors, that is, Our ancestors, concerning the head of the abbey and the goods of the aforesaid monastery. He besought Our Serenity that, for the fullness of greater firmness, We might add a precept of Out authority on top of them.

Proffering assent to him for love of God and St Martin and for the remedy of Our father and mother and Ourself and Our wife Emma, who is beloved to Us, through whose beseeching We have done this, We commanded this precept of Our Highness to be made and given to him, through which We confirm to the came place those things which were formerly conceded by other kings:

In the district of Autunois, the estate of La Celle-en-Morvan with all its appendages and Thil-sur-Arroux and Bragny-en-Charollais, with Fabricis and Maltat and Vitrarias of Neuvy, with all its appendages; and in the district of Chalon, Chenoves and Granges, and in the district of the Auxois, Cussey; and in the district of Avallon, Girolles and Tarridum, with everything pertaining to them; and in the district of Nivernais, Beunas and Chasseigne and Saint-Saulge and Le Chambon with all appendages; in the district of Bourges, Colombiers and Allouis and Porcariorum with all its appendages, and in the district of Viennois, Albon with all its appendages, and in Provence, in the county of Fréjus, Bargemon; and in the county of Vaison, Bésignan and Mollans; and in the district of Orléanais, the estate of Pinus and Rouvres-Saint-Jean; and in the said district of Autunois, Montorsin with appendages, and the lake which is under Thil-sur-Arroux, in view of Charbonnat on the river Arroux, of which one side is Saint-Martin’s, and the other is Ours, from Charbonnat, which Our wife, beloved to Us, obtained Our approval and for Our alms and hers bestowed upon the same saint with the field adjoining it; and the chapel of the Holy Twins sited outside the walls of Autun, with appendages, which Our said abbot acquired through legal exchange. Our faithful man Berengar who held it from Us in benefice beseeched Us that he might be permitted to sell it to the abbot and brothers and accept in compensation as much from the land of Saint Martin as he had given, for the advantage of both parties. We concede all which justly and legally belongs with the aforesaid goods to the same abbot in right of benefice to be held and governed in accordance with the Rule in his lifetime.

After his death, by his request and that of the chiefs of the place, We wish that Hugh should succeed in his place, and after him let the monks elect an abbot in accordance with the Rule and the canons. Let the same abbey endure under the defence of Our immunity and be free from all service except that of the divine and Us; and let whatever it pleases Us or Our successors to bestow upon or restore to the same place remain under the aforesaid immunity.

But that this largess of Our munificence might be more firmly held and more inviolably conserved through times to come, We confirmed it with Our own hand and We commanded it be sealed under the impression of Our ring.
Sign of the most glorious king Ralph.

Ragenard the notary witnessed and subscribed on behalf of Bishop Abbo [of Soissons].

Given on the 8th ides of April [6th April] in the 12th indiction, in the 1st year of the reign of the glorious king Ralph.

Enacted at the city of Chalon-sur-Saône.

Happily in the name of God, amen.


Saint-Martin d’Autun was destroyed in the French Revolution, but this image shows what it looked like in the eighteenth century. (taken from Gallica)

It must be said that, unlike Robert, this is not a fully original work. Despite the fact that the diploma is for the abbey of Saint-Martin d’Autun, its opening justification for Ralph’s rule is actually adapted from an 877 diploma of Charles the Bald for the abbey of Vézelay:

(shared text is in bold)

We believe that the dignity of the empire was bestowed on Us by divine ordination. Therefore We give thanks to Supernal Piety. Although We are very unworthy of His benefices, nonetheless We should think how We might justly direct the sceptre of the empire granted to Us according to His will, and under His rule protect His Church, for which He shed His own blood, in every way, believing that We cannot offer to Him anything more pleasing than this offering, that nothing can be more salutary for Us in this life, that nothing can be more glorious in gaining eternal repayment from His goodwill.

So what does this mean? Two things. First, it means that someone in Ralph’s entourage knew the Vézelay act well enough to riff on it. This is another of those wandering charter prologues, and in this case I think it shows the existence of what amounts to tenth-century charter wonks. Someone had serious and considered opinions about and knowledge of royal diplomas, what they should say, and how they could work for the new king.

The second is that we get a sense of Ralph’s claims to legitimacy. The rhetorical weight here is heavily on the protection of the Church. Charles the Bald’s act has been reworked against his grandson: where Charles the Simple stirs up pagans against the Church, Ralph fights to protect it. It’s a powerful claim, and one that would actually serve Ralph in good stead for a few years. Certainly, as we shall shortly see, at least one powerful Churchman believed it enough to give the king a serious leg up over his regional rivals…

Charter A Week 46: Mothers and Sons

For several weeks now, we’ve been focussing on Charles the Simple and royal politics, but plenty of things were happening elsewhere in the realm, not least in Burgundy. In 921, Richard the Justiciar died, probably after ailing for at least half a decade (a 916 charter has his eldest son Ralph of Burgundy signing on his behalf). There are signs that Richard’s position in the last years of his life was not a secure as once it had been. Steven Robbie, whose thesis I love but who has a bad habit of overstating his case (even by my standards) in this regard, has a really cool picture of badly deteriorating relations between Richard’s family and the so-called Manassids, the family of Richard’s right-hand man Count Manasses the Old of Dijon. There is some evidence for this (such as a 918 charter where Bishop Walo of Autun condemns Manasses for seizing an estate of Autun’s church which Richard restored), but not as much as I would like. Meanwhile, the family was getting involved in conflicts outside its heartland: at some point around 920, Ralph teamed up with Robert of Neustria to snatch the city of Bourges away from William the Younger of Aquitaine.

So when, in 921, Richard died, Burgundy was ripe for a change. We have hints that not all was well amongst Richard’s sons, hints such as:

ARTEM 609 (c. 922)

Since worthy witness ought to be given to all just largesse, if only to protect from the fluctuations of worldly fortune, it is necessary that a largess of full devotion should be confirmed by the witness of writings such that the truth of reason is able to understand when it is brought before the gaze of the inquiring. On which account I, Adelaide, by disposition of heavenly piety formerly a countess and now by the gracious favour of the same mercy a handmaid of the Heavenly Emperor (and by a shining family of most brilliant sons enduring in the dignity of the earlier appellation), thinking of these and many other gifts of God’s benefactions granted to me, and with some of my time well-spent, desiring and believing to gain the prize of eternal repayment, decided at the advice and consent – indeed by the exhortation – of my beloved son the illustrious Count Hugh [the Black] – and moreover thinking the worthy thought that such a thing would most certainly benefit us in the gain of eternal rest – thought of the estate of Boyer, which is sited in the district of Chaunois, on the river Natouze, once legitimately given to the late martyr of Christ Vincent and to the uses of the canons by the largess of their own bishop the blessed Lupus, which was seen to be their patrimony by our forefathers, but which by the cunning of the malignant and blind cupidity is known to have been [taken] by lovers of this fallen world from ancient days, although the investiture of the nones and tithes remained.

Therefore I thought it worthy, at the counsel of my aforesaid son Hugh, that I should return the aforesaid estate of Boyer, which I obtained through a precept of royal majesty, with churches and manses, and bondsmen, and everything pertaining to it within and without, sought and to be sought, all adjacencies everywhere, to the stipends of the servants of God soldiering for God and St Vincent in the aforesaid mother church, for the remedy of the soul of my most beloved lord the duke and margrave Richard [the Justiciar], and also mine, and those of my sons, so that the intercession of the said soldier of Christ Vincent and the frequent prayers of his servants might beat at the ears of the Highest Piety in our aid, for which reason we might deserve to obtain eternal life happily by the grace of the Remunerator of All. Whence We commanded this charter of Our largess to be made. Solemnly we avert any bishop, or any person of whatever order or sex, from presuming to subtract it from the table of the same canons; but let the aforesaid brothers enjoy its stipends inviolably, with no impediment.

I also wish that from this estate, three of the better manses with their appendages and acreage and all the serfs’ renders, should constantly serve in looking after the wretched and the hospital of the same church, with their bondsmen, on the condition that in my lifetime they should hold the estate for my uses. For the moment, in vestiture, let the canons always receive the church of that jurisdiction, which is in honour of St Victor, with everything granted to it, and pay the renders in its alms.

If any prince or bishop, therefore, or any person, might presume to subtract or alienate or diminish this offering of Our devotion from the table or stipends of the aforesaid canons, for their presumption and to vindicate this charter of our restoration on the day of Judgement, we commended them to the terror and anathema of unspeakable revenge. In addition, I command and humbly pray my heirs that they might as far as they can support the aforesaid canons regard this my largess, for true life and the remedy of their souls. If the aforesaid brothers are unable to expel the wrongdoers, let my heirs receive it for their uses until they can restore it to the aforesaid congregation in line with my devotion.

And that this charter of our largess might in God’s name obtain a more secure firmness, I fully confirmed it with my own hand, and We commanded it to be strengthened under the hands of my sons and our followers, such that after my death the aforesaid brothers might and hold have this charter of our largess in its entirety.

Cathédrale de Chalon

Chalon cathedral as it looks today (source).

Hugh the Black was Ralph’s brother, and this isn’t the only charter of Adelaide immediately after Richard’s death feting him – another was issued for the church of Autun in 922, ‘at the exhortation of my beloved son the illustrious Hugh’, where Hugh signs before Ralph (and their other brother Boso) in the witness list. It is possible that what we are seeing here is a struggle for power within the family. Ralph had been pushed forward by Richard during his lifetime; but Hugh was backed by their mother, and Adelaide was making no secret of her favour for Hugh following Richard’s death. I don’t think that this was a violent struggle, but it may explain how the Bosonid family reacted to the ongoing West Frankish civil war.

Ralph of Burgundy – who was, by this point, Robert of Neustria’s son-in-law – went to negotiate with Robert, but nothing seems to have come of it, and Ralph did not lend active support to Robert’s campaign. By contrast, Hugh the Black did lead an army against Charles. He did not achieve very impressive results – he attacked a small raiding party and killed three of them – but he was nonetheless there with armed men at Robert’s side. I wonder if they might have been trying to secure their local position by Robert’s intervention. If so, Hugh gained Robert’s support in the short term, but it left him dangerously exposed if Robert’s position were to crumble. As for how that went – we will see next week…

The Problem of Older Brothers

This blog post may be a bit less convoluted than some, because it’s a rant about one general assumption found in earlier medieval scholarship which is so wide-spread that I’ve never even seen it verbalised, but you can find implicit pretty much everywhere: that when there are brothers the most important brother is the oldest.

The most obvious example of this are the three sons of Richard the Justiciar: Ralph of Burgundy, Hugh the Black and Boso of Vitry. Ralph of Burgundy became king, and if you read around you’ll find most historians making the assumption that he was the oldest brother of the three. Yet he’s only attested in 916, whereas Hugh the Black is attested sixteen years earlier, in a royal diploma of Louis the Blind dating from 900 where he’s already a count and clearly important enough to be sent on expeditions to see the king of Provence. Ralph might be the oldest brother, but it’s not proven!

Even more the case of King Odo. It is generally assumed that Odo is older than his brother Robert of Neustria, and again it might be the case. The two siblings were certainly of a similar age. But again, there is as far as I know no specific reference to Odo being older than Robert. In fact, if it is true that Robert was a count near Liège whilst Odo was still hanging around on the family farm in Worms, that might suggest the opposite.

Sometimes, you can prove traditional ideas of who’s older. Arnulf the Great of Flanders, who used to be one of my big hopes for being demonstrably-if-not-provably a ‘younger but more important brother’, actually turned out to be the opposite: re-reading Folcuin of Saint-Bertin’s history of his abbey, I found a reference to Arnulf being maior natu – older – than his brother Adalolf. It’s a shame not to be able to back up my point here, but it is at least a reminder of how rare statements this explicit are.

Still not important enough to be mentioned explicitly in Witger’s genealogy: Saint-Omer, BM ms 776, fol. 33v (source)

Why might this matter? The answer has to do with how succession worked in the early middle ages. We know, I think – and certainly I’ve argued – that norms of succession are extremely flexible, more so than they’re given credit for, and this is part of that. The assumption that the personal who eventually gets the high office must be the older child seems to me to be unconscious, reflex-level part projection of post-twelfth century(-ish) rules of succession-by-the-eldest-male onto a period where that may not have been the case. Ralph is a good example, actually – he might have been a good candidate for king because of his age, sure; but it’s remarkable that both is brothers appear to have been rather more parti pris in the recent and extremely controversial civil war than he was… Age may have been completely irrelevant here. The point is, that unless we recognise this assumption as an assumption, there’ll always be that barrier to our understanding of succession in the earlier middle ages.

(I am, for the record, an older brother myself, so there’s no personal dog in this fight…)

Horrible Hamburg Harangues – Help!

This blog post is a call for help. I’m keeping pushing on with the wandering arengae, and there’s one which has me stumped. This is a tale of two diplomas, Recueil des actes de Robert Ier et Raoul, no. 14 (D R 14, for convenience), and Die Urkunden Ludwigs des Frommen, no. †338 (D LP †338). The first of these, issued in 927-930, confirms Bishop Adalem of Laon’s refoundation of the collegiate community of Saint-Vincent and the second, issued in 833, founds the archiepiscopal see of Hamburg-Bremen. Let me give you the texts (shared text in bold):

D R 14 D LP †338

If, having inspected the particular necessities of any one of Our followers, royal authority advises they should be helped out, by how much more does it fairly and worthily pertain to the due oversight of everything that We should endeavour to take in everything pious and solicitous care of the catholic and apostolic Church, which Christ redeemed with His precious blood and committed to us, the sons of which we became through adoption, to rule and protect; and so that We are seen to show due diligence for its success and exaltation, We should provide necessary and useful dispositions for its need and advantage.    

If, having examined the particular necessities of any of Our followers, imperial authority advises they should be helped out, by how much more does it fairly and worthily pertain to the due oversight of everything that one ought to take in everything pious and solicitous care of the catholic and apostolic Church, which Christ redeemed with His precious blood and committed to Us to rule and protect; and so that We exhibit due diligence for its success and exaltation, We should indeed provide necessary and useful new dispositions for the new matters pertaining to its need and advantage.     

Fairly close, no? This leads us to the obvious question: how come they share the same text?

What Hamburg Cathedral used to look like, when it existed (source)

This is more complicated than it seems. First of all, you may have noticed the little dagger in D LP †338. This indicates that it’s a forgery. In fact, the early history of the diocese of Hamburg-Bremen is beset by forgery. This is a problem for me not least because as far as I can tell none of the distinguished scholars who’ve looked at Louis’ diploma for Hamburg have known about Ralph’s for Laon… So, when was this arenga actually written, if not in 833? The most recent author on this matter, Eric Knibbs, has placed it actually in Louis the Pious’ reign, and I’m inclined to agree with him because there are quite close verbal parallels between this diploma and the acts of the 829 Council of Paris which make Louis’ reign the best time for it to be composed. In any case, I think D LP †338 must be precedent to D R 14, because that addition about becoming sons through adoption doesn’t quite make sense, because the plural there must refer to the whole Church rather than specifically to Ralph, and so conflicts with the sentence as a whole which clearly does mean the king personally. This suggests it’s a later addition to an existing text.

Second, is D R 14 legit? The act’s editor thinks yes, not least because although the original doesn’t survive anymore it did long enough for there to be partial facsimiles and these apparently appear like genuine early tenth-century diploma script. There’s also the fact that Saint-Vincent was reformed as a Benedictine monastery in 961 and any time after that seems like a weird place to forge a diploma referring to the community as one of canons. On the other hand, Bishop Adalelm’s reign is an equally-strange place for Ralph to be issuing a diploma heavily based on an act for Hamburg, as for pretty much that whole period he’s a) not in control of Laon, b) at war with the East Frankish king, or c) both.

This raises the question of what the terminus ante quem might be for these acts. For various other reasons of intertextuality, I think that the early 980s is the case for both – there are acts of 982 and 983 which clearly depend on these as their precursors. Whatever’s happening here, these arengae can’t be later than the latter part of the tenth century.

So we have two possibilities, then. First, these acts are dependent on one another. If this is the case, I think that D R 14 is vastly more likely to be based on D LP †338 than vice-versa. Second, there’s a third source. Given all of the above, I am warmer towards this idea than I was previously; but that raises the question of what it is… So here’s my question to you all: what are the links between Hamburg and a) Laon or b) the West Frankish crown in the ninth and/or tenth centuries which might lead towards Ralph’s chancery (probably) taking Louis’ act as its model? Failing that, what might the third document be? Over to you…

[Addendum a few days later: on reflection, the most likely place for a link seems to be Corbie, but then we face the problem of how you get from Corbie to Laon… A smaller problem, perhaps, but still real!]